PORTAGE PARK — About 1,300 colorful comic books and graphic novels sit on tables and shelves inside Portage Park’s newest bookstore at its owners prepare for the crowdfunded store’s long-awaited opening.
Howling Pages, 4354 N. Milwaukee Ave., opens Friday. The owners spent months rehabbing the shop and securing independent books from European, local and national indie presses and donations from the community.
And more books are slated to occupy the shelves soon, owner Alain Park said.
“Even with everything in here, my goal was to start at 1,500 and go past 2,000” books, Park said. “There are still about 300-500 we ordered that are on the way.”
The store sells international, local and indie comics; graphic novels with a children’s section; and illustrative and printed local artwork. Stickers and postcards are also on display, and customers are greeted by an enormous black-and-white mural that Park painted. It features six well-known comic and graphic novel artists and writers whose work is in the store.
The independent bookstore is a dream realized for Park, a writer and artist who has lived in Portage Park for 16 years. The bookstore got off the ground thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign that helped build out the inventory, rehab and add interior decoration to the space and help with rent for the first few months.
Park turned to the community in October to raise funds for the bookstore and offset start-up costs. The fundraiser received more than $16,000.
Between support from the crowdfunding campaign and neighbors and comic blogs sharing news of the store and its offerings, Park has felt the love from the community and is ready — although somewhat tired — to open his doors after months of hard work, he said.
“I incredibly appreciate everybody’s efforts and [them] getting to know what we want to do and what we want to bring,” he said. “They understand it, which is cool — they get it. It’s affirming. … Now we just need people to show up.”
Howling Pages recently hosted a pop-up art event with Seventh Corner Gallery, which brought in hundreds of folks and helped the store gain more exposure, Park said.
Donors were also invited to view the bookstore before its grand opening, and they voted on ideas for what Howling Pages should offer next to the community.
Among the top winners were creations from local youth, a high-quality printer for artists to print work in-house and art classes for kids.
Park hopes all of these ideas happen and wants to focus on helping the next generation of artists by exposing youth to artwork and teaching them what it’s like to be an artist.
“I can definitely see anything to get people excited about doing things in the neighborhood,” he said. “There are a lot of different uses for a space like this.”
Co-owner Ashley Towne, Park’s wife, who is also in the art publishing industry, will help run the store, along with their two children. They helped paint the bookstore in CYMK colors and run the recent events. They are energized and ready to help make sure the shop is a success, Park said.
Howling Pages will also offer consignment for local artists wanting to sell their visual work at the store, with the makers keeping 60 percent of each sale, the owner said.
The store’s hours are noon-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays. Park will offer free cupcakes and juice boxes 2-4 p.m. and a happy hour starting 5 p.m. for Friday’s opening celebrations.
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